Lismore Council’s Community Solar project opens to investors

Australia’s first local government- and community-owned solar project will begin seeking investor interest this week, just six months after it was approved for development.

The Lismore Community Solar project, which plans to develop two separate 100kW solar farms in the north-eastern NSW community – one at Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre, the other at East Lismore Sewage Treatment Plant – is hoping to attract around 40 investors.

Lismore Council, which is coordinating the project alongside community energy specialist, Farming the Sun, says a campaign will launch on Thursday June 11 asking parties interested in taking a share in the solar farms to ‘pledge’ in-principle support.

Two community-owned companies will be established under the banner of Lismore Community Solar – one for each solar farm – and raise money from investors. The money will then be lent to the council to build the solar farms, and council will repay that loan over a seven year term.

According to Adam Blakester from Starfish Initiatives – the group who originally put together the Lismore Community Solar plan – the project is tapping in to “a groundswell of sustainability and renewable energy work” across the Northern Rivers region.

“This is an investment in change,” Blakester told RenewEconomy in an interview late last year – “the greatest gain for investors being their profile and influence on the transition to renewable energy, plus a reasonable return on investment to boot.

Blakester says the launch of the investor campaign next week hopes to attract around 40 investors “who see themselves taking on, or building on, a high profile leadership role in renewable energy and sustainability” – some of which will also be required to take on directorship roles for the two community companies that are set up.

“We’re not asking investors to hand over any money just yet, but rather we need to identify those who are genuinely interested so that we can be confident that there is a solid pool of investors to draw on when the prospectus goes live,” he said

“This local impact investment model is an innovation of the Farming the Sun team and is being applied for the very first time in Lismore,” Adam said.

“This model is simple and low-risk with clear results, which is attractive for local government because it provides surety for the community and for investors. We are launching an innovation in how councils and community do business, with both financial and clean energy returns.”

Once investors have made pledges for Lismore Community Solar, the business model will go before Council for final adoption in late 2015. If adopted, a prospectus will go live for share offers.

The Lismore Community Solar investor pledge campaign launch is on Thursday, 11 June, from 5.15 for a 5.30pm start at the Lismore Workers Club. Interested people should contact Lismore Community Solar Coordinator Susanna Carpi,

Top image via Clean Energy Collective.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson